Tuesday 30 October 2012

A New Text On John Cage For ‘Cage Rattling’ #2: The Echo of Nothing

On the evening of Monday, November 5, I will be presenting a new text on John Cage as part of The Wire’s ‘Cage Rattling’ celebrations at Kings Place. This second evening in a series of three, entitled ‘The Echo of Nothing’, is specifically concerned with an examination of how Cage’s compositional approach relates to the work of non-musicians, which is certainly how I would wish to describe myself. It seems appropriate that the centenary of Cage’s birth should be marked by an event that extends, challenges or re-examines this revolutionary composer’s ideas rather than transforming them into the stale orthodoxies of the previous century. My new piece is called ‘Ideas Are One Thing And What Happens Is Another’. A follow-up post will give some further details about the thinking behind its composition, but for now, here are some details of the event plus an exclusive Wire Readers offer which you may wish to exploit:

The Wire presents ‘Cage Rattling’: Exclusive Wire Reader Offer: £7.50 ticket & drink
Book a ticket for any Cage Rattling concert for just £7.50 and receive a free bottle of Carlsberg lager or a soft drink. To take advantage of this offer, call the Kings Place Box Office on 020 7520 1490, and quote ‘Wire Reader Offer’. Drinks vouchers can only be collected from the Ticket & Information desk on the evening of the event and are redeemable at the Kings Place concert bar on the same date. Please note: this offer not available online, but only over the phone; online saver tickets are £9.50/night.

‘Cage Rattling’ #2: The Echo of Nothing
Monday November 5, 2012
Kings Place
90 York Way London N1 9AG
Box Office 020 7520 1490

Pictured above: KP inverted by KH, original image of Kings Place courtesy of e-architect.co.uk, which, with a little further manipulation becomes ‘ear-chitect’, and who could resist that under the circumstances?

Monday 29 October 2012

Psychopathia Esoterica: the Beauties of Bath’s Masonic Hall III

English Heretic has now published the minutes of the October 2012 AGM - an extraordinary AGM if ever there was one, and his insightful comments are most welcome. While professing all due reverence to my most worshipful colleagues, Ruth Calland, Haunted Shoreline, Dean Kenning, John Cussans, Sarah Sparkes, Tony Clayton, Eerie Anglia and The Blue Tree, I am afraid that modesty permits me to mention only EH’s comments regarding my own small offering, which are as follows:

Ken's talk was a rollicking tragicomedy session of decadent psychoanalysis, but also it has to be said, a profoundly cogent argument illustrating the inevitable self-destruction of the child-king. Taking in the lives and  tacky luxuries of Prince Rudolph, King Ludwig, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, Ken demonstrated a reverse alchemy in their demises. The Kings may not die, but they do gradually decay into the empires of their excess. They do, also, like the angels of some lurid occult system display a common set of correspondences - a love of artifice, an asexualisation to the point of infantilism, retreat, military fetishism and the power to indulge every parameter of their self-disgust.

It is hoped that some kind of ritual enactment of this conference will be staged at a major London academic location in the not-too-distant future. Watch out for further details. In the meantime: see, hear and, above all, keep silent.

Pictured above:  ‘RESURGAM’; the ceiling as seen from behind the hall’s hanging heraldic devices; KH prepares to speak; two glimpses of KH in action, presenting ‘The Psychoanalysis of Trash’, note the splendid brass lectern and interior views of Ludwig II’s Venus Grotto on the screen; English Heretic and KH during the Q&A session with Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle projected behind them.

Friday 19 October 2012

Philosophica Geometrica Abstracta: the Beauties of Bath’s Masonic Hall II

Once the eye adjusts to the rococo display of materials and arrangements inside the main chamber at Bath’s Masonic Hall – and that will take a while as the newcomer is very easily misled by the ranks of mahogany pews, the richly-appointed oil paintings, the various coats or arms and banners which decorate the walls, even the heavy gong and leather beater in the corner – another order of shapes starts to emerge: one that is far simpler and yet much more agreeable. Basic geometrical forms and propositions begin to establish themselves. This selection of images helps to demonstrate how satisfying and soothing the arrangement of primal geometric forms can be even in a space that appears to be so heavily tricked out at first glance. It is perhaps only in a chamber such as this that you can appreciate once again the simple elegance of Pythagoras’ theorem, especially when it has been neatly inlaid into the top of a plinth which also bears the marks of candles that were lit sometime in the recent past. We are, after all, in a carefully arranged space that celebrates the building of carefully arranged spaces.

Pictured above from top to bottom: the apex of the altar above the middle of the stage; the ceiling of the main chamber; the theorem and the wax; ornamental knocker found on an interior door; harmony and stability; carpet edge in the main chamber – photographed by KH and roving shutterbug Kitty Keen: more soon.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Worshipful Company: the Beauties of Bath’s Masonic Hall

At the weekend I had the great pleasure to present a talk, ‘The Psychoanalysis of Trash’, at the English Heretic AGM, which was held this Saturday October 13 at the Masonic Hall in Bath. Although my texts, notes and images were all prepared in advance, nothing could prepare me for the arcane beauties of this splendid ritual space. As Rachel and I were also celebrating our eleventh wedding anniversary on the Saturday, the love of my life agreed to come along with me – because nothing says ‘you're special’ like a room full of mystical antiques and ancient devices. As it turned out, we both fell deeply in love with the Hall, taking a couple of hundred pictures between us, while Rachel also became the event’s official gatekeeper, collecting money at the door, giving out information and tour details to visitors and consigning the unworthy souls of the unenlightened to the shadowy pits of hell. There are too many great photographs to fit into one post, so I am going to release them one set at a time over the next few days in the hope that some of the richness and complexity of both the occasion and this remarkable space can be effectively conveyed. It’s more than just a good idea.

Pictured from top to bottom: an undisturbed corner of the hall; KH, crowned and conquering; veiled pillars; the hall in full effect; Rachel Hollings – ‘advance and be recognised’ – more soon.

Monday 8 October 2012

The Psychoanalysis of Trash – Lecture at Bath Masonic Temple

During the afternoon of October 13, this coming Saturday, I will be taking part in the English Heretic Annual General Meeting, which is taking place at the Masonic Temple, Old Orchard Theatre in Bath. My talk will be reflect recent researches into the life and aesthetic martyrdom of Ludwig II of Bavaria and how it has been echoed in the subsequent deaths of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, Elvis Presley of Gracelands, Tennessee and Michael Jackson of Neverland Ranch, California. You can find the full title below plus some information about the other speakers and performers taking place in this splendid event in the official press release, reproduced below. I do hope you will be able to attend this unique event in this magnificent venue.

English Heretic has the pleasure of inviting you to its annual general meeting. This year, we are delighted to host the AGM at the wonderfully ornate Masonic Temple in Bath. The AGM will be a forum for friends and collaborators of English Heretic to present findings from their creative research over the past year, as well as previewing work in progress and future prospects. The AGM will culminate in musical ceremonies by our most holy augurs to propitiate imaginative nourishment for the coming year. The AGM is open from 12.30pm to 10.00pm. We are honoured to welcome a plethora of exceptionally interesting and talented guest speakers covering a rich canvas of hermetic, aesthetic and ontological material.

Talks and Presentations

Antony Clayton – Gentleman of Hastings
As a taster for his recently published book Netherwood: Last Resort Of Aleister Crowley,  Antony will be taking the audience on an annotated guide to the remarkable guesthouse where the “Wickedest Man In The World” spent his final years, playing chess, injecting heroin and receiving an impressive cast of visitors. A unique memoir of place and person Antony's “Netherwood” is available as limited hard back edition, including over 40 photographs and illustrations.

John Cussans – Red Cross Bones Pomba Gira Workings

Ken Hollings – The Psychoanalysis of Trash: The ‘Fever of Matter’ and the Aesthetics of Industrial Decay
Starting from Huysmans’ A Rebours, in which the pasteurization process is a praised as a means of transforming poor quality wine into copies of fine vintages, this talk will examine trash as the original prima materia of art. Alchemic processes of transformation (the ‘fever of matter’) are invoked, alongside early ‘hysterical’ practices identified by Sigmund Freud in which discarded objects associated with the dead king take on a sacred aspect, to trace connections between Crown Prince Rudolph of the Hapsburgs and King Ludwig II of Bavaria on the one hand and Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson on the other. All four of them were vilified for their excessive behaviour and ‘bad taste’, and all four of them were the victims of self-inflicted – one might almost say sacrificial – violence in one aspect or another. For an earlier version of this lecture, first given at Neville Brodie’s Anti-Design Festival, click here.

Dean Kenning – Innovations in Heresy: Prospects for Growth

Sarah Sparkes – Remember. THE END.
Sarah’s talk will contextualise this year’s AGM venue with regard to her current work for a forthcoming exhibition on Theatrical Dynamics at Torrance Art Museum. A phantasmagorical travelogue through personal and west country history, the talk will develop themes from Sarah’s GHost project, presenting her great grandfather’s magic lantern slides and discussing their unusual connection with The Tolpuddle Martyrs secret society.

Haunted Shoreline – Plumbing the depths on the south coast of England
Hermes Trismegistus and Salvador Dali chase giant psychedelic beachballs across fossil-strewn cliffs, while Georges Bataille performs unspeakable perversions with Max Ernst’s frottage sticks and a vampire squid. At The Haunted Shoreline, a stretch of the English coastline becomes transmuted, emerging as a wondrous Hermetic Theatre in which secret Nature is unveiled and the shadowed recesses of the mind illumined. Where occult beachcombing meets surrealist psychoanalysis, and everything crackles with life.


The Blue Tree perform a Lethbridge moog ritual.
Matthew Shaw is a Dorset based musician, artist, photographer and songwriter, he has been making and releasing music since the mid 1990s. Recent work has focused on compositions based on single locations such as Lanreath, Fernworthy, Seatown, Zeist and Barnoldswick. Matthew is also an active member of the bands Fougou, The Blue Tree and 230 Divisadero. The Blue Tree is Matt’s collaborative project with Andrew Paine.

English Heretic – Collision! The Devil Drives Out
An electroacoustic rendering of their forthcoming album provisionally titled “Collision! The Devil Drives Out” imagines a post-mortem trip along the Bath Road in Berkshire. A death coach carrying the tarotic fools to a metal elysium beneath the heathrow flyer, their cards read by Frieda Harris: Aleister Crowley directs Dr. Terrors House Of Horrors, ritual cinematography by Dick Bush. “The Mangled Destinies of Robert Cochrane, Angel Blake, Dr. Robert Vaughan and George Sanders” photographed by Peter Beard, in kodachrome kalas somewhere near 1973. Mall timeslips programmed by Ian Ball. Reanimated Ex Men, anti-heroes, under the tutelage of wheelchair bound mystic John Levy, a module in psychohistory delivered with the heavy hand of a violent cartoon.

EVENT TIME: 12.30pm–10.00pm

Advance tickets available here.

Friday 5 October 2012

Catching Up With Motorway Crash Barriers

The kind of temporary structures created by and around automobiles provides some of the most fascinating forms of architecture, such as the canvas and steel city of trucks, engines, oil drums and plastic sheeting created around the pit area at the Santa Pod dragstrip. Last month I encountered an interesting form of temporary structure while on my way back from Santa Pod in the backseat of the gold Chrysler PT Cruiser that belongs to Roger and Izabel Burton of the Horse Hospital. As we approached the end of the motorway just outside of North London the car started to lurch and falter: warning lights started to came on, illuminating the dashboard. Roger managed to keep things functioning long enough to steer the car to a stop in a runoff area edged with a long concrete crash barrier. The sun had almost gone down and there was a cold wind blowing: we were going to get to know this crash barrier very well over the next two or three hours.

A repair service was due to be with us within 20 minutes, but until then the call centre handling the recovery also asked that we leave the car and stand behind the crash barrier as a safety precaution.
‘We’re not really going to do that, are we?’ Izabel asked from under her NHRA baseball cap, huddled in the passenger seat.
‘I don’t know,’ Roger replied. ‘I think we’re supposed to…but we can stay if you like. It’ll be Ken who gets it first if anything runs into us.’
‘Well, I vote we wait behind the crash barrier,’ I offered brightly. ‘Who’s with me?’

Standing together behind the concrete barrier on an isolated strip of concrete, being buffeted by the slipstreams of lorries, 4x4s and coaches as they came roaring down a three-lane motorway is a far stranger experience than you might at first imagine. The forces involved in the large vehicles travelling at speed are extremely disorienting. You begin to appreciate how much we take being mobile for granted – who ever stops unless they have to? To find yourself suddenly immobile and stranded while being passed by moving lines of traffic is also to find yourself in a mild state of shock. With the sun completely set it grew colder still: there is little warmth to be derived from the motorway lights, which seem to be much higher on their poles when seen from ground level, and the illumination they spread is bluer and less forgiving than when seen from the window of a speeding car.

Dark trees twitched overhead and the dazzling smeared lines of car headlights broke up the darkness. Across the motorway, separated from us by six lanes of traffic, was a small cluster of post-war apartment blocks: with the lights on in some of the living room windows it was possible to see the occupants moving around, their wall-mounted flatscreen TVs silently flaring and flickering behind them. If this didn’t already feel like a scene from a late 70s J G Ballard short story, the three of us were startled to hear what sounded like a gunshot and a woman’s scream coming from somewhere among the blocks. Both sounds were so distinct they had the sharpness of a hallucination: guns in real life rarely sound like the ones we hear in movies in TV shows – not that there was much we could do about it separated as we were from the buildings by six continuous streams of traffic.

Finally a mechanic pulled his van in behind the Cruiser. There was nothing he could do fix the car right there and then, but he said he would wait with us until a tow truck arrived, which would be about 40 minutes. It was also safe for us to get back into the car again. As we walking back towards the stricken Cruiser Izabel grabbed my arm and tugged me away from the white line dividing the motorway from the off-road area. ‘You can’t go that close to the line, Ken,’ she said. ‘You’ll get sucked in behind a passing lorry if you’re not careful.’ Her point was well made when a Megabus roared by leaving the car shaking and bouncing in its wake. We listened to whatever we could pick up on the Cruiser’s FM radio (who knew Donny Osmond was a DJ now?) until the tow truck finally arrived. Now there was a repair van, a stricken Cruiser and a tow truck all pulled in against the crash barrier in a small bleak oasis of stillness. With hydraulic gears, steel cables and the tow truck’s tilted platform, the Cruiser was slowly hauled up off the concrete: Izabel and watched the whole thing from the rear window in tow truck’s cab.

Something like an assemblage that was part machine, part animal and part human shelter, the scene being played out was perhaps one only its participants could appreciate fully. Everyone else was moving way too fast. It took a while to winch the gold car up onto the back of the truck but then we were roaring and juddering our way through the outskirts of North London. ‘See how close we were to London?’ Roger muttered as we came off the motorway about five minutes later. ‘Yeah, but just be thankful we didn’t break down around here,’ Izabel replied, indicating the complicated junction of ramps and roundabouts ahead of us. The ride through central London in the back of a tow truck, high above all the other cars and pedestrians, was fantastic.

Pictured above: Izabel Burton making her way towards truck’s cab as it prepares to winch up the Cruiser; two shots of the Cruiser mounting the back of the tow truck taken through the cab window; Cruiser and tow truck locked in a mechanical embrace – note the NHRA badge on the radiator grill.